Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, has launched a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and three users of the social media platform for defamation. The complaint was filed in Henrico County Circuit Court in Virginia. The lawsuit alleged defamation, conspiracy and negligence, as well as violations of the state’s prohibition against “insulting words.”
The lawsuit seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. The lawsuit is seeking joint and several liability, which permits plaintiffs to recover from one defendant while the defendants sort out what each owes after. The complaint also sought an injunction compelling Twitter to turn over the identities behind the accounts Nunes is claiming harassed and defamed him.
One of the other parties sued is listed as Liz Mair, a Republican strategist. The two other defendants are two parody accounts: @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow. @DevinNunesMom was suspended last year after Nunes’ real mother, Toni Dian Nunes, complained about the account. @DevinCow is still active and currently has roughly 46,000 followers.
The complaint lists dozens of tweets from the accounts that Nunes found insulting. According to the complaint, Mair allegedly published tweets that “implied that Nunes colluded with prostitutes and cocaine addicts, that Nunes does cocaine, and that Nunes was involved in a ‘Russian money laundering front.’” It also says that the @DevinNunesMom account “maliciously attacked every aspect of Nunes’ character, honesty, integrity, ethics and fitness to perform his duties as a United States Congressman.” The tweets were described as something “that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”
While the law protects large internet platforms from liability based on what their users publish, Nunes’ suit said the platform taking an active role in curating and banning content means that it should face liability like any other organization that defames. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has said before that Twitter, as a private company, retains the right to censor speech. Twitter declined to comment on the lawsuit.